What Is Erb’s Palsy?


It’s a parent’s biggest fear that their children may be born with any kind of illness or injury. Erb’s palsy is a birth injury that can affect a child’s abilities and physical development. Here is what you need to know about Erb’s palsy.

Erb’s Palsy Explained

You may be wondering: what is erb’s palsy? Erb’s palsy is also known as brachial plexus palsy. It is named for a network of nerves near your neck. These nerves affect all of the nerves in the arm. Those nerves are the reason you can feel your fingers, hand, arm and shoulder. Palsy refers to weakness.

One or two in every 1,000 babies are diagnosed with Erb’s palsy. Generally, it occurs when a baby’s neck is stretched to the side. More often than not, this will happen during a difficult childbirth.

While there are different types of brachial plexus palsy, Erb’s palsy refers to the upper nerves. You may notice that your infant cannot move his or her shoulders or fingers. If your child cannot move his or her upper and lower arm, then he or she may have global brachial plexus birth palsy.

Erb’s Palsy Diagnosis

A doctor can diagnose Erb’s palsy based on an examination of the arm. The physician may order an ultrasound, MRI or x-ray to find out if there is any damage to the bones or joints. The nerve injury has the ability to affect the shoulder’s growth and development. The doctor may need to do tests to figure out if there are nerve signals in the upper arm and muscle. He or she may order an electromyogram or a nerve condition study.

If your baby has Erb’s palsy, odds are that he or she will recover. Your child should see his or her doctor regularly for examinations, but after two years, he or she should recover. Nerves do grow very slowly, so you should not expect a quick cure.

Physical therapy is the most common treatment for Erb’s palsy. Your baby’s physical therapist can teach you exercises that you can do at home with your baby. If your baby does not improve through the use of physical therapy then a doctor may recommend surgery on the nerves. Your baby may need a nerve graft or a nerve transfer.

Erb’s palsy is one of the many birth injuries that children can suffer. Without treatment, there is a possibility that the injury could become worse or will not heal properly. It is critical to have a child treated as soon as possible once the diagnosis is made.

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